Saturday, April 17, 2010


DHS 157

Without going outside, you may know
the whole world.
Without looking through the window,
you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.

Thus the sage knows without traveling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.

Tao Te Ching
Chapter 47
Lao Tsu

In this chapter of his book, Lao Tsu emphasizes the fact that the henro trail is not necessarily a physical trail along which one must travel. The henro trail can, and is for many, that quiet place where you simply sit and be; that place where the commonly accepted dualities of the world are allowed to settle and drift out of existence. Then it is no longer you sitting on the zafu but simply being on the zafu. It is no longer you looking at the world, including yourself, but being seeing what is, as it is, right here, right now.

Marcel Proust said the same thing many centuries later when he reminded us, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

But by reminding myself of these simple facts, i don't mean to imply that my zafu is any better a henro trail than a physical trail like that on Shikoku. It's not. A pilgrimage on my zafu is certainly a lot cheaper than a pilgrimage on Shikoku, but it's not more valuable. Personally i prefer the physical trail but that's simply because i can walk a lot longer than i can sit.

The key to a successful pilgrimage is keeping in mind Lao Tsu's and Marcel Proust's words while you are walking. What's important is not the temples, what's important is not the chanting, what's important is not anything you can see or do. What's important is what you don't do — and how you do it.

When the emperor asked Bodhidharma how much merit he had gained by building numerous temples and supporting countless monks, Bodhidharma replied that he had gained no merit. None. Why? Because those had been done with the thought of gain predominant in his mind. They had been done for personal gain. That's not the henro approach.

When you walk the trail, just walk. It's not Bendan walking the trail, it's just walking — until the map tells you it's time to stop walking. When you eat your lunch, just eat. It's not Bendan eating yet another bland sandwich or another bento from the local convenience store. When you take a break, just sit. It's not Bendan sitting and thinking about the last person he met, or how hot is it, or how distracting the rain is. It's just being on the henro trail with no thoughts of gain or loss, no thoughts of praise or blame, no thoughts of fame or fortune, no thoughts of good or bad, no thoughts of difficult or easy.

As you walk along, don't look at objects out there, as opposed to you, in here. Don't compare, don't judge, don't criticize, don't praise. Just see. See everything. Experience everything. Let it come into your perception and let it go away. Don't miss anything by not trying to see something.

Walk the trail without walking. No subject interacting with an object. The henro trail isn't something distinct from you. The henro trail is the trail, you, everyone you see, hear, and interact with, the temples, the shops, the gas stations, the garbage cans, the toilets, the dog pissing on the tree, everything. The henro trail is existence manifesting here, now, moment by moment, breath after breath.

Does this mean a real henro is a mindless slug? Absolutely not; far, far from it.

When you can see all of this, you have found the henro trail.

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